Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Secondary infertility can occur as a result of illness, certain types of lifestyle choices, or by damage to the reproductive system.
This is her story.
I know, you read that title and are all “whaaa??” Unfortunately that is what happened to me after my fourth and final pregnancy. I’ve been pregnant four times and have one living child.
My first pregnancy was completely uneventful and totally successful. I gave birth to a wonderful baby girl in May of 2006. She is the light of my life and it goes without saying that I love her more fiercely than I’ve ever loved anyone.
My second pregnancy, in June of 2007, ended in a “planned” termination. I chose the word planned because it was a decision that my husband and I made together. It was undoubtedly the hardest decision of my life. I had to do what was right for me and my family at that time in our lives.
My third pregnancy in December of 2010 was my first ectopic pregnancy.
I started spotting four days after I got a positive home pregnancy test. I called the doctor’s office and for the two weeks following that positive pregnancy test I went every other day to the doctor’s office for a blood draw to check for increasing hormone levels and for intermittent ultrasounds to try and find the pregnancy. My levels increased, not at the normal rate but they were increasing. However, in all the ultrasounds that I had done the pregnancy was never found.
Late one Saturday night I began to have severe cramping and went to the ER right away. After thorough exams and an extremely painful ultrasound it was determined that I was going to need emergency surgery. Right then. At 3:30 in the morning.
I was alone and scared. A few hours after the operation, when I was in a not so drugged state, I was told that my body was trying to expel the pregnancy and I was beginning to bleed internally from the damage. The result of the surgery was not only the loss of my third pregnancy but the loss of my right ovary and fallopian tube.
My fourth pregnancy in August of 2011 was my second ectopic and final pregnancy. Again like the first ectopic I starting having severe cramping a couple of weeks after my positive home test and headed to the ER. Unfortunately the timing of this couldn't have been worse; the day I went to the ER and found out that I was again having an ectopic pregnancy was the due date of the baby I lost from the first ectopic in December.
Fortunately this ectopic was found right away on the ultrasound that was done in the ER. Since this pregnancy was found and could be clearly diagnosed as an ectopic I did have the option of receiving an injection to terminate the unsuccessful pregnancy. The doctor and I chose the shot because of the fact that another surgery could be risky and I stood a chance of losing my remaining tube.
In hindsight opting for the shot was by far, for me, the worst decision. After receiving the shot I had to have weekly blood draw appointments at my doctor’s office to make sure the hormone levels came down to zero. I went to these appointments for seven weeks after the shot was given. Each week was a reminder of the failure of my reproductive system. The failure of myself as a woman.
A few months after my second ectopic pregnancy I elected to have an IUD placed. After the placement a routine ultrasound was performed and my doctor found something “odd” near my remaining ovary.
After an additional ultrasound was performed four weeks later it was determined that I had a couple ovarian cysts, that we would keep an eye on them and that they would probably go away. They didn’t go away. Seven months later I found myself faced with the decision of having surgery to go in and clean out the cysts. My doctor and I were hesitant to go the surgery route because of the risks. I ultimately chose to move forward with the surgery as I just wanted this nightmare to be over.
As a result of the operation in May of 2012 a damaged - damage sustained from the previous ectopic pregnancy - portion of my remaining left fallopian tube was removed. The portion of the remaining tube was “clipped” off as they would do in a tubal ligation. My doctor knew my wishes going into surgery and she did discuss this with my husband prior to completing the ligation and I am glad that she made that final determination.
I ended up not having ovarian cysts but rather small pockets of damaged tubal tissue that had filled with fluid. Those were also removed.
It took a total of five years to get here but I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be able to have any more biological children. I never thought this day would come. Even as a child I dreamed of being a mom to many children. Adoption is not totally out of the question but for now I need time for my soul to heal.
What I do have now are answers and closure. This door has closed but perhaps another one will open. I can take this information and move forward with my life and be the best possible mom to the one child I do have.
When I fell pregnant with Bear, my sister-in-law, Aunty J, found out that she was also pregnant for the tenth time.
She only has one child.
She was due the same day as I was, and, for a few weeks, we excitedly started planning our births and pregnancy-related things together. One night, I had a phone call just as we were putting Flower to bed.
It was Aunty J.
She sounded very calm when she said, "Can you take me to the hospital, please?"
I was a bit shocked and asked what was the matter.
Then she said the words you never want to hear a pregnant woman say: "I'm having a miscarriage."
I dashed over to Aunty J's house, where her husband, Uncle P, was putting their son to bed. We left immediately. On the way down, I tried to make small talk, but inevitably the topic of the baby came up. I suggested that she could be wrong.
I was put right.
"I know how it feels! I'm sure!"
We managed to find a parking space and ran up to the maternity suite. The nurse checked her over while I stayed in the waiting room, trying desperately to hide my own growing bump.
However, people noticed and asked why I was there so late on a Sunday night. Everyone thought I was there for me, but then I explained what was happening to Aunty J. I felt terrible because even though they knew we were there for the worst of reasons, they'd always draw attention to the fact that I was pregnant; how marvelous it was.
I couldn't lie about how happy I was as we'd been trying for seven months to have a baby, but I also felt horrified that my baby was thriving and healthy in my womb, while down the corridor, Aunty J was losing hers.
She came out while I was talking to a lady who had literally just given birth, and I was cooing over the little soul.
I felt so guilty.
Aunty J simply said, "Let's go," and walked down the corridor.
I rushed after her. "What did they say?"
"Go home. If the blood loss gets any worse, phone an ambulance."
"Is that all?!" I was horrified that they hadn't even offered her counseling.
"What did they say about the baby?" I asked.
"It'll probably come out in the next few days," she replied.
I couldn't believe how nonchalant she was. But she wasn't, not really. When we got back to her flat, she left the room for a few minutes and when she came back her eyes were red with tears.
Two days later, she lost the baby. The life that was growing inside her died. She cried and so did I. I couldn't understand why it happened to her and not me.
Over a year later, I still cry.
Every time I look at Bear, I'm reminded that he should have a cousin the same age. I think things they should be doing together; how they'd be friends as they grow up.
Now Aunty J is twenty-six weeks pregnant with twins, and she keeps going in and out of labor and they've rushed her to the nearest hospital with two open incubator beds for the boys.
So again, we are praying for little unborn children. I hope they'll all be okay, including Uncle P who is still a child at heart. He's doing his best, but the stress is taking hold.
I suppose I'd better get a shift on with the premature clothes and hats I want to make because it looks like I don't have much time!
Prenatal and postnatal complications are not as rare as we'd like to believe, even in the United States. This month, Band Back Together is bringing this to light in our spotlight series.
We invite you to share your stories of any type of complication before or after the birth of your child. Whether it's preeclampsia, a cord trauma or an infection like Group B Strep, we want your stories.
Have you experienced complications during pregnancy or immediately after?
You want prenatal and postnatal complications?
I've had them in spades. My son just turned a year old, and I can't stop thinking about what happened after his birth every single day.
After having a miscarriage in 2008, another in 2009, and a third in 2010, I was desperate to have a pregnancy.
I have PCOS and hypothyroidism, and my doctors had told me that if I wanted to carry my own child, I needed to do it ASAP.
I couldn't get affordable health insurance due to my pre-existing conditions. The policies I could get didn't cover infertility treatments anyway. So I hit blogland to see what real doctors prescribed for women I thought were similar to me.
I found that some women had luck trying to conceive while on Clomid. I gave it a try, but after several cycles and too many stark white peesticks to count, I decided it wasn't working.
One day I woke up feeling worse, worse than I'd felt since the miscarriages - crampy, achy, downright vomity - and I knew I had to test just one more time. It was positive!
The next day, I was admitted to the hospital for the pain due to a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I spent the next three days there until an intrauterine sac showed up on ultrasound.
Guess what also showed up on the ultrasound? My right kidney, very inconveniently nestled up to my uterus.
Hyperemesis hit immediately, as it had with the other pregnancies. It sucked, but at least there was a constant reminder that lucky number 4 was still hanging in there. I was given an anti-emetic and remained on it for the remainder of the pregnancy.
It made things so much better. Even on the medication, I weighed 45 pounds less after delivery than I did before I got pregnant. (I've never been so happy to be fluffy in all my life. Imagine if you didn't have those 45 pounds to spare!)
At eight weeks, I started seeing spots. My blood pressure had started to rise, and a 24-hour urine protein sample showed I was already emitting large amounts of protein in my urine. The blood pressure medications made me incredibly dizzy. For the rest of the pregnancy, I couldn't stand up for longer than 15 minutes without feeling as though I might pass out.
At twelve weeks, my husband and I thought we were in the clear.
Suck it, first trimester!
I went to the bathroom one night at work, feeling slightly crampy. I found that I was bleeding and had passed a large clot. I rushed to the hospital, all the while thinking, "We shouldn't have bought the crib. We tempted fate and now it's all over. I'm sorry, baby."
It turned out that I'd had a small fibroid that grew larger from the pregnancy hormones, too large for its own blood supply. It was dying from the inside, hence the blood and pain. I went on the first of several stints of modified bed rest.
At 18 weeks, the bleeding from the fibroid finally stopped and I was released from activity restrictions. I promptly got food poisoning and ended up dehydrated and in preterm labor. Cue modified bed rest, part two, which ended at 22 weeks.
My blood pressure had risen to dangerous levels at 23 weeks. I was already maxed out on the amount of blood pressure medication I could take. I was also emitting even more protein in my urine. Enter modified bed rest, part three. On the ultrasounds, it showed that baby was getting smaller and smaller for gestational age.
I tested positive for gestational diabetes at 24 weeks. That, combined with the other complications, ruled me out of all care options in my hometown.
We're in a rural community, and a maternal-fetal-medicine team flies in once a month to do level two ultrasounds. They took on my care, seeing me when they were in town. I drove 220 miles one way to see them for the rest of my appointments. I caught bronchitis in their office and broke a rib coughing. Unpleasant at the best of times, downright intolerable when there's also a baby kicking you those ribs.
At 26 weeks, my blood pressure spiked some more. I was seeing spots in my vision all of the time. I had a constant severe headache. I was having epigastric pain, but I thought it was just heartburn from throwing up all the time and wondered why antacids weren't working. Due to miscommunication between my care providers, this went unnoticed until 28 weeks.
At the 28 week appointment, I was put on full bed rest after an abnormal EKG and some bad cardiac laboratory testing. It was only then that the maternal-fetal-medicine team realized that they'd never done a urine protein check on me. It came in high of course, but nobody could decide if that was because of my crappy pelvic kidney (that had been emitting protein for the entire pregnancy and was now getting damaged further by constant baby headbutts) or if it was the beginning of preeclampsia.
We monitored it for several weeks. The levels rose slowly, as did my blood pressure, and they decided to keep me home on bed rest with a blood pressure monitor. They would induce labor as soon as the baby's lungs were ready.
At 37 weeks, his lungs were ready, which was good because labs showed I was in the early stages of heart, liver, and kidney failure. He was deemed fully cooked. He thought differently and refused to make his appearance.
After 84 hours of labor (GBS+, 37 hours since my water broke), I had a c-section. I had a bad reaction to the spinal on the operating table. Our son's heart rate hit 30 and mine hit 16. I thanked them for the blessed pain relief. Labor sucks for most (if not all) people, but I didn't know it would also make me flashback to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.
I never thought I'd really have a baby at the end of it all. Not until I saw him alive and screaming. I thought that was the end of the nightmare called reproduction. But after two hours in the recovery room, his blood sugar was a little low, so they took him for monitoring.
Eight hours later, when I could stand and walk again, they let us have our son back to feed him. We thought he was just sleepy when he didn't want to eat.
His blood sugar had tanked after they forgot to check it during those eight hours, and he was lapsing in and out of a coma. He was rushed to the NICU for IV dextrose.
He was also jaundiced from ABO Incompatibility and had to be on phototherapy. He stayed in the NICU for the next five days.
He's a determined, stubborn little fighter to this day, and we are so lucky that he made it unscathed through all of the complications.
Mama, on the other hand, still can't process the enormity of all of it - more than a year later.
But on the bright side, the PTSD symptoms from the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period have almost completely eclipsed the symptoms I had from other life events.
Yes, glitter, dammit!
One in every four diagnosed pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
This is her story of repeated miscarriage:
Today is not just our wedding anniversary; it is also a very special anniversary. On this day, three years ago, we found out that our little man existed.
I was still waiting for my cycle to return after having my second miscarriage in the span of a few months. We had specifically been trying not to get pregnant after almost a year of trying to get pregnant.
We were preparing to go through a series of thorough tests to determine why I could get pregnant, but couldn’t stay pregnant. I'd already been poked and prodded, examined and scrutinized after our most recent loss.
The ache from our earlier losses still lingered.
The second time was a blighted ovum. No baby. Seeing that empty sac on the ultrasound screen after so many weeks of waiting will never leave my memory. I felt as hollow as that image.
I couldn’t believe it was happening again.
The worse part was that my body was not ready to let go. I wanted to move on, mourn, and forget, but my womb had been duped and still fed the illusion.
I was given a choice: I could either wait until my uterus came to its senses, let the miscarriage happen naturally and hope that surgery would not be necessary, or I could have surgery now and be done with it. I chose the latter.
The procedure went well and was quick and easy. I was under general anesthesia - I went in that morning, heavy with the burden of my body’s failure, and woke up a few hours later lighter but empty, void, and vacant. As I groggily gathered my bearings just before being wheeled to my room, the nurse came to administer my RhoGAM shot. I quietly wept as she inserted the needle. I wasn’t supposed to get this until just after my baby was born.
But there was no baby. There never was.
The physical recuperation was harder than I expected. I had been here before, but my natural miscarriage was much easier than this time. The pain and cramping were agony, and were just another miserable reminder of what was, but wasn’t, to be.
The emotional devastation was also much more than I ever thought possible.
In my mind, no one understood. In my heart, no one cared.
There was no baby from the start so what was I grieving? At least that is what I thought everyone would say. But I couldn’t explain what I was feeling. Part of me wanted to just suck it up and move forward. Part of me wanted to curl up in a ball and die.
My feelings were overwhelming. The hurt, fear, shame, and longing pushed up from my heart and lodged in my throat. My words choked on the monstrous lump.
I was at a loss - literally and figuratively.
I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t get this right. I felt so humiliated that I'd even breathed a word of this pregnancy before knowing for sure that everything was all right. This miscarriage was as bad as the first, when everyone knew because we were so excited. We told the world and then had to take it all back once the bleeding started.
It was almost worse really.
The first time, we didn’t know what went wrong and it happened early enough that it could have been any number of things.
This time we had kept our secret and had just begun to share. We were only a couple of weeks from getting the “all clear.” That ultrasound was supposed to be our confirmation. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
I blamed myself.
Had I moved too quickly after our first loss? Had I waited too long to start on the journey to motherhood? Was my one, aging, ovary simply not up for the challenge? Was I broken?
Yes, I was broken. Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually.
I hid in the basement for weeks. My husband struggled. He was grieving too, but wanted to make me better. He didn’t know what to do to help me, so he fed me.
He bought me ice cream. He bought and prepared my favorite dishes. He kept the wine coming. He waited on me hand and foot, and though he encouraged me to get out of the dark, he let me wallow and suffer in peace. The media room slowly filled with the weight of my sadness. The air was thick with it. After a few weeks, so were my thighs.
I had made an appointment on the day of my surgery to see the reproductive endocrinologist recommended by my OB. I saw him the following week. He assured me that we would get to the bottom of the situation. If there were answers to be had, we would find them. Ultrasounds, questionnaires, and blood work were prescribed. Then we waited.
We were almost ready to get the heart of the problem. We were told not to try again. I wasn’t ready to try, so that was fine with me. I wanted to know what was wrong first. We all waited for my body to cooperate. On cycle day three, we would get to work. We waited a few weeks more. But it never came.
A few days before our eleventh anniversary, the thought occurred to me. We had been very careful. It shouldn’t be, but there was that one time. The timing didn’t seem right, but I decided that if nothing happened before our anniversary I would take a test that morning, just to see.
After almost a year of trying, I was all too familiar with peeing on sticks, so this was no big deal. I had no expectations. It was just another time, just another test. Or so I thought.
But, lo and behold, there it was. The line. There was a dark pink, undeniable line.
I went upstairs. My husband was engrossed in battle on the Xbox. He had his headset on, so I didn’t want to say it out loud. I tapped him on the shoulder and showed him.
He stopped the game and stared at me blankly. “What does that mean?” he asked. “What do you think it means? I’m pregnant,” I answered. He blinked again. “Happy Anniversary,” I said. He blinked again.
We had set up a day of activity for that anniversary celebration. We were doing a scavenger hunt. We each had to buy eleven gifts that would spell out an eleven -letter love/anniversary phrase and we could only spend $111. We had been planning it for days. My phrase was “(We) fit together” a quote from one of our favorite movies, Killing Zoe. This was a timed competition (we were only allowed 111 minutes) and I just knew I would win.
All day, we ignored the obvious. We did our crazy search, and then we met for dinner at our favorite pub. I sat across from him, sipping my beer and said, “This is the last one for awhile I guess.”
He blinked and asked, “What do you mean?”
“I’m pregnant, honey. I probably shouldn’t even be having this now, but it’s our anniversary, so I’m going to have one last little hurrah.”
Slowly, the reality began to sink in. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He took my hand. We looked at each other, smiled and sipped our drinks.
We were hopeful. We were terrified. We had been through so much and were not quite ready to let down our guards.
“Happy Anniversary, baby,” he said and raised his glass.
“Happy Anniversary,” I replied and we toasted.
Though we were only vaguely aware, it was the beginning of a whole new life. It had already begun, actually.
The third time most certainly was the charm.
Our little man was.
Tragically, one in every 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth.
This is the story of Selena Kay:
I never imagined, more than 13 years ago, that the loss of my daughter would have as profound of an affect on my life as it has. The feelings of guilt and failure feel as strong today as they did then.
Sunday night, March 7th, 1999 was when it began. I was supposed to have an ultrasound that morning to find out if she was a boy or girl.
I never made it that far.
Late that night, I started cramping and I knew something was wrong.
We rushed to the hospital, only to be faced with roadblocks. They made me wait for a room for over an hour and a half.
Every day, I ask myself why I didn’t insist that they help me earlier. I was only 21 and trusted that the hospital staff was competent, that they weren’t putting my child’s life in danger by making me wait so long.
By the time I got to a room, it was much too late to stop my labor. They shot me full of what I believe was Demerol and the only memory I have of her is from a drug-induced haze.
The hospital made it very difficult for us to have the funeral home take her for burial. They stupidly said something about twenty weeks pregnant considered stillbirth. I'd have been twenty weeks the following day. I refused an autopsy; I wanted her to be buried as she was. The hospital also made this very difficult; and forced me to sign a form stating my refusal.
The next few days were a blur of grief and planning the funeral. We called the funeral home and requested to see her so I could say goodbye. I wanted to remember her and bring a few toys to put with her.
The funeral home cautioned us that the hospital had done the autopsy anyway and left her body like that.
I couldn’t believe I'd failed her again. I failed to protect her and I will never forgive myself. I couldn’t bear to look at her like that. We requested the funeral home to fix her as best they could and we buried her that Friday.
Since then, I've had a miscarriage at 13 weeks and now have two living sons that were both born prematurely. I tend to hover over them too much, over-react, and freak out if they get hurt. This constant state of worry is exhausting.
People tell me to "just stop worrying." Little do they know that it’s nearly impossible. It's my crutch - I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have something to worry about.
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